Home > Animal Rescue, Dog Behavior, Lost Dogs, Pet Adoption > Understanding Jane’s dog body language – What do you see?

Understanding Jane’s dog body language – What do you see?


It’s been a while since I’ve done a dog body language post. I love doing them, not only for me (because I learn just as much as you from them), but also because I think they are a great way to remind us all that watching is not the same as seeing, REALLY SEEING. Dogs are communicating with us nearly all the time, we just don’t always see it.

I asked my friend Julie if I could share this video she made of a stray dog that she was assessing for a rescue group. I thought it was a great example of dog body language.

Like all my past posts on dog body language, I ask you to focus on the behavior displayed and less on your interpretation what Jane is feeling.

Focus on the specifics of her behavior. Where are her feet? Her head? Her tail? What movements does Jane make? What facial movements does she make? How is her body turned? All of these things mean something, but it takes seeing them first. As always, I have listed my own observations and interpretation below.  (You’ll first see Jane about 50 seconds into the video.)

 Due to length of the video, I chose to observe the first 3 minutes and 14 seconds of the video and the last-minute and 10 seconds. Feel free to watch the whole video, and Jane’s body language with the other dog in the video, and share your observations.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to share.

My observations of Jane:

In first 3 seconds of the video…

  • Head is down
  • Ducks down and away from Julie as leans towards her
  • Tail is tucked

First 3 minutes and 14 seconds

  • Ears move to back of head
  • Tail is tucked
  • Head is lower than shoulders
  • Turns head towards Julie as she pets her head and then away again
  • Stiff body
  • Back legs are back behind her body (instead of under)
  • Glances at Julie as she speaks to her
  • Looks immediately away when Julie pats her legs with her hands
  • Head is down
  • Mouth is drawn tight
  • Moves front of body away from lady
  • Jane glances furtively around – at Julie and possibly someone else in the room
  • Ears move alternately between perked to back on her head
  • Moves body further away, as far as the leash will go
  • Lip lick as Julie runs hand along top of back and rump
  • Looks back at Julie when she says “treat” and then does a lip lick
  • When Julie stands up and  moves forward to get a treat, Jane takes a step forward with her
  • Jane watches the hand with treat
  • Ears are back
  • She sits as far away as possible after being requested to sit 2 times
  • Stands and takes treat
  • Chews treat at a distance from Julie
  • Tail is tucked
  • Leans forward at “Good girl”
  • Julie says “Come here” and pats legs
  • Jane turns heads towards her butt then stops and turns head back towards Julie
  • Moves a step forward and closer to Julie
  • Julie pets her head and neck
  • she lowers head and lip licks several times
  • Jane looks away a couple of times
  • Ears at back of head
  • Looks at something in the room or towards a sound
  • Tail a little less tucked
  • Turns head towards Julie for only a second and swings other way towards window
  • Ears move between forward and perked to back on her head
  • Turns head towards Julie when she says something and leans back slightly when she pets her head
  • Tail is tucked
  • Body appears stiff
  • Leans back and away as Julie lifts her lip flaps
  • Body appears smaller and tighter
  • Lip lick
  • Head is lower and even with shoulders
  • Lip lick
  • Head lowers further
  • Jane glances up at Julie from a lowered position
  • Her head twists sideways and up and back with snout facing ceiling
  • Her head turns sideways
  • Ears are way back on her head
  • Tail is tucked under tightly
  • Body is stiff and tight
  • Head stays turned to the side and away from Julie as she pets the side of her face
  • Head turns away from window and Julie and moves further away from her hand
  • Lip lick
  • Nervous glance at woman and then away towards window
  • She is led forward
  • Glances nervously at woman and away
  • Ears on back of her head as Julie touches her leg and lifts her foot
  • Glances quickly at Julie
  • Tail is tightly tucked
  • Mouth is tightly drawn
  • Glances at Julie a few times
  • Lip lick as Julie stands
  • Turns head towards her rump as Julie touches her there
  • Blinks several times
  • Ears back on head
  • Lip licks
  • Pulls away as woman leans over her body and lifts her opposite foot
  • Lip lick
  • Tucks body in tighter
  • When Julie moves away to sit down, Jane turns head all the way back towards her back-end
  • Moves head and body sideways to Julie
  • Turns head back towards Julie and moves it closer to her
  • Julie  stands and Jane lip licks and appears to pant
  • Stops and turns head towards back-end as Julie scratches and pats her butt
  • Turns body completely away and around

Last minute and 10 seconds

  • Jane is now at the furthest distance from Julie as the leash will allow
  • She looks towards the door
  • Ears are perked and forward
  • She turns back towards Julie when called
  • Panting
  • She turns her body towards Julie and then away as she circles around and back
  • There is a sound and Jane turns towards it
  • Her body appears taller and head is up
  • Ears are forward
  • Tails is wagging
  • Body looks more relaxed
  • She turns back toward Julie readily and then looks back at the noises off camera
  • Tail wags
  • Turns back towards Julie and lip licks as she scratches her butt
  • Tail wags quick and low
  • A couple of lip licks
  • Body appears to be more relaxed
  • Head is further away than back-end, but body appears relaxed
  • Turns back towards Julie as she pats and scratches her butt
  • Panting
  • Loose body
  • Turns back towards Julie and nudges her
  • Tail wagging
  • Engaged, tail wagging
  • Ears perked, looks towards door and noises off camera
  • Body and head are taller and appear more relaxed
  • Appears more engaged with Julie and looks back to her often

My summation: The lip licks, tucked tail and creation of distance at the beginning of the video are all signs that Jane is nervous and uncomfortable. She tries to put as much distance as she can from Julie. She is not comfortable being touched, but is very tolerant of it, even though she is extremely uncomfortable. She tries to disengage, but she is not fearful enough to be shut down since she is able to take a treat. I thought she was an extremely tolerant dog, especially when Julie touched her feet and legs.  At the end of the video, Jane is much more relaxed and engaged. She seems to enjoy the butt scratches much more at the end of the video than she did at the beginning. Her body appears to be much more relaxed and loose. She turns readily towards Julie and is intrigued by her environment. She even appears to turn back for more butt scratches.

Jane seems to be a very nice dog. I am so glad she made it into a no-kill shelter. I hope she finds her new home soon.

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  1. April 21, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    that was great! I will watch the video tonight again, it’s very interesting :o)

    • Mel
      April 21, 2014 at 9:36 PM

      I hope you find it interesting the second time around. So much in this video to see!

  2. Lilly Bear
    April 21, 2014 at 7:17 AM

    THE best book on dog language is by Martin McKenna, “What’s Your Dog Telling You?”… The 1st thing she should have done was yawn and lift her chin…

  3. April 21, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    That turn toward her own butt that she made several times made me wonder if she was in pain there, had an anal gland problem or had been injured there in the past…

    • Mel
      April 21, 2014 at 9:36 PM

      Jenny – I wondered the same thing. She may also just be extra sensitive to anyone touching her there. She was especially tolerant with all the touching despite being uncomfortable.

  4. Keri
    April 21, 2014 at 10:57 PM

    I thought the same about Jane ‘s response to being touched on her back end…. Not only was she nervous but felt it to be a pain or remembered pain response….
    I love when you do these posts…. So much to learn!
    Thank you!

    • Mel
      April 23, 2014 at 6:49 AM

      Thanks Keri! I wasn’t sure anyone would want to spend the time reading all my observations, but I am glad it is worth sharing. 🙂

  5. April 25, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Great post!

    I found this very interesenting and also I thought the same about Jane’s response to being touched on her back, it could be because she was paying attention to everything around or was a little nervious. Body lenguage is very important tool understanding out pets, it could be our only way of comunication.

  6. Richelle
    April 26, 2014 at 7:47 AM

    This is the first time I have watched a video just to watch the dogs body language instead of what is happening in the video. I did notice some of the things, but I never noticed the lip licking or panting. I love that she responded so well, and I really hope Jane gets a great forever home! Thank you for sharing this! I am definitely going to watch it again. I want to be more aware of what all dogs I encounter are feeling. This was so helpful!

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